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Affect or Effect

A pile of individual different printed word cut-outs

Some words can sound similar but have entirely different meanings. For example "affect" and "effect" are known to confuse sometimes. The English language is awash with such seeming contradictions. So how do we deal with these potential trouble spots?

The answer is simple: we learn about them and get to understand how to use them. Your dictionary is sufficient, whether you use a PC-based version, an online service, or a traditional printed copy. As a communicator, resolve to seek out and appreciate where the potential word traps may lie.

Let's define the differences between "affect" and "effect" now:

Affect is a cause. Affect means to influence or change some thing or situation. For example: "How will the takeover affect us?"

Effect is a result of what has happened. For example: "The effect of the takeover means that several new opportunities have now become available to us."

However, the word "effect" can also be used as a verb (action word). Here's an example:

  • "To effect a good result ..."

Key tip: nevertheless, I suggest avoid using the word "effect" as a verb, as shown above. Why? Such writing can be seen as pompous, ambiguous, old fashioned, clumsy. Usually, a better, simpler and more accurate alternative word choice is most likely available after a few seconds research with a thesaurus or dictionary.

For example, to "clean up" the previous example above, we could simply rewrite our sentence to read:

  • "To ensure a good result ...". Or, if you've already provided sufficient background explanation, you could use  ... 
  • "Ensure a good result ...".

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